Friday, February 12, 2010


I've long slogged through life with the cross to bear of being what seems to be the only human alive who believes RUSSIAN RIVER's PLINY THE ELDER double IPA to be a "lesser" beer. Sure, it's good enough, but after careful contemplation of 5 glasses or bottles of it, I think I'm pretty certain that it's in the lower third of the Russian River (arguably our country's finest brewer) panoply, and it's a little south of average for the ultra-hoppy, Double IPA style. I find this opinion raises the hackles of the many who feel PLINY THE ELDER to be manna from heaven, and I've enjoyed some of the comments on this blog calling me heretic, "Judas" and whatnot.

Then there's the fabled PLINY THE YOUNGER. This beer comes out only once a year, and it's the 11% ABV, souped-up version of the Elder, and when it appears in its exceptionally rare handful of locations (usually just in a few California bars), it's snapped up & glugged down like a cooler full of Gatorade found after three parched days in the Gobi Desert. Right now it's actually tied with TRAPPIST WESTVLETEREN 12 on Beer Advocate's "Top 100 Beers" board as the single greatest beer in the entire world. Now me, I'm a San Francisco resident, and both Plinys are brewed about 80 minutes north of me. The fact that until a couple days ago I'd never tried RUSSIAN RIVER PLINY THE YOUNGER was a crime against drinking, and seriously lowered my credentials as a, um, "beer journalist" and maker of tastes. So when I got the email from Oakland's excellent beer bar THE TRAPPIST that they'd have a keg of this liquid gold on tap for a few hours, I drove- nay, I sped - over there after leaving work early to ensure I'd get to finally ingest a glass of the greatest beer on god's green earth.

Now you readers of this blog, you know I try to be a teller of truths, while holding a little bit of my tongue in my cheek at times. But I can't fathom this PLINY THE YOUNGER thing either, I just can't. Yes, it is ludicrously hoppy. It smells like a hop bath, and the only beer I've ever had this intense was DRAKE'S HOP SALAD - which, let the record show, is the better beer. I can't say that this is really that amazing of an experience. It is strong, it is well-constructed, but the sort of consciousness-raising beer experience one expects from the world's great beers? No, it's nothing of the sort. It's an experimental, kick-your-ass, hoppy ale that you'll remember for its intense bitterness and that's about it. And around here, my friends, that's what we at Hedonist Beer Jive like to call a 6.5/10.


mumbly said...

I'm going to have to join you on this one. I prefer Blind Pig to either Pliny. I think it is better balanced, whilst still being a hop treat.

Was at the Trappist and had a glass of the Younger both Tuesday night (they put it on later in the evening after the Alagash tasting) and Wednesday night. I enjoyed it and even went out of my way to try it, but less because I thought it was a great beer and more to taunt folks who missed it.

So you're not alone.

Fred said...

In all of Beer Week I was unable to get a single taste of the fabled Younger. As for Elder, totally agree with Mumbly—Blind Pig is wayy better. You get all the fruity/piney hops without being a total palate-wrecker.

Anonymous said...

I'll join the choir. The Blind Pig, IMHO, is superior to either Elder. On the other hand, I prefer Avery's Maharaja to either Elder as well.

Do I get docked points for saying "Pline-ee" even though I know it's supposed to be 'Plen-ee'? I feel like history teachers the world over cringe.